On-loan Norwich City defender Dani Ayala aims to make his mark at Middlesbrough

Daniel Ayala celebrates scoring against Watford in the Championship earlier this month. Picture: Pet

Daniel Ayala celebrates scoring against Watford in the Championship earlier this month. Picture: Peter Reimann. - Credit: Evening Gazette

Norwich City's on-loan defender Dani Ayala is fighting fit and determined to prove he can cut it in a three-month loan stint with Middlesbrough.

Ayala has endured an injury-hit two-year spell at Carrow Road which so far restricted him to just six Premier League starts since moving from Liverpool.

The 23-year-old centre-back is yet to feature under Chris Hughton despite being involved in the Canaries' pre-season plans, but the Spaniard believes a change to his training regime has made a huge difference to his outlook.

'I couldn't work out why I kept getting hamstring injuries and it may have been because I was doing too much work in the gym and straining my back,' he said. 'I improved after cutting out the dead-lifts, and I got myself fit again.

'There's nothing like playing games to make you feel sharper, because it was frustrating not being in the team at Norwich.'

Ayala has made an immediate impact on Teeside with two goals in his first three outings alongside former City team mates Kei Kamara and Jacob Butterfield.

The defender's late header salvaged a point at home to promotion hopefuls Watford at the weekend and Ayala is convinced Boro can be in the shake-up with the Hornets.

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'I have had a good look at Boro now and I can say we are a good team,' he said. 'We should be in the top half at least. The basics are here for a team to play good football. And there are not too many points between us and the top six, so if we start winning, like four or five games in a row, then we will be right up there.

'At the moment we don't have too much belief in ourselves because we have started badly in the Championship but that will come. If we win a few games and put in better performances then we will cut the gap down and get the belief back.'

Speaking ahead of this morning's appointment of former Real Madrid assistant manager Aitor Karanka, Ayala had said the Boro players were hoping to see a new man at the Riverside helm soon following the recent exit of Tony Mowbray.

'Mark Venus is more than capable of doing this job,' he said. 'He knows the club. He knows the Championship. And he knows the players we have here. But it would be better if we know for sure who is going to be the manager quickly so we can focus on the rest of the season. The quicker we know who will be the manager the better. As a group of players It would be better if we knew for sure.

'Every player would like to know of course. I don't want to say who should be the manager but I hope whoever comes - or if Mark Venus stays - that we start to climb the table because I think there is time still for this team to do something.'